Live Reviews

It is a thing among fans to ask each other what their dream venue would be for their favourite artist. Bruce at Slane (missed that).... The Waterboys at Glastonbury and Frank Turner at the Olympia in Dublin. What better place to see him than at this historic, nice-sized venue right where I live. I wrote to Frank to say that this was my dream venue and that it would be the perfect place to hear 'Balthazar impresario', his song about the faded glory of music hall. He wrote back to say that he knew the Olympia, as he had played there once a long time ago with Million Dead. As for the setlist request, he'd see what he could do.

Many fans had travelled for the show and we had a very nice pre-gig meet up in the Foggy Dew. As a result we did not quite get front row, but we made it into the Olympia's mini pit. This was the first show of a considerable UK & Ireland tour, and I was a little disappointed that there was no new stage backdrop and that it all looked the same as the last tour. Minor quibble. The new merch is very nice however so, a hoodie :)

I liked support act Esme Patterson. She reminded me a bit of Anna Calvi. I had hoped that her presence on the tour might mean that 'Silent key' would get played (as she does the female vocal on the studio version), but not as of yet.

When you see a band repeatedly there are songs that you never get tired of, songs that you feel could be given a rest and songs that hit you anew for some reason. And for every fan they will be different songs. For me, 'Long live the queen', 'If ever I stray' and 'The way I tend to be' are songs I always love hearing. I could do without 'Wessex boy' and 'The road' (but on the plus side he has finally dropped 'Peggy...' and 'Glory hallelujah'). Standouts for me were the punchy full band version of 'Love forty down', 'The opening act of spring' (still my favourite off the last album) and 'Hits & Mrs', with a kazoo playing couple from the audience guesting. Frank introduced it as a song he rarely plays, yet somehow I think I have caught it four times so far. Lovely song.

Frank's solo section halfway through the show is generally where the surprises come. He played the aforementioned 'Hits & Mrs' and 'Redemption' as requests. I resigned myself to the fact that I was not going to get my request. Oh well.
The main section ended with 'Photosynthesis' and then Frank returned on his own for the encore. One introductory strum of the guitar and I realized he was about to play 'Balthazar impresario'. I got my moment in the sun and the people in front of me let me stand on the barrier for this one. I have had requests granted before ('Pancho and Lefty', 'Cowboy chords') but this one was definitely special. I hope I can get a recording of it.

We went for something to eat after the show and as we were heading back towards the Foggy Dew we saw a small group of people in the lane way beside the Olympia. Frank was still out there meeting and greeting so we got the chance to say hello.
All in all a great evening and as this was only night one of the tour there is plenty more to look forward to.




If you go down to the woods may find some unlikely wild life. It all started like this ..I saw the Membranes at the wonderful Seachange festival at Totnes, and afterwards chatted with their striking, erudite and approachable front man, John Robb. John is well known as a music journalist, writer and BBC pundit, so we talked about music, until I made chance mention of one of my other interests – I am an ecologist and for 25 years have been leading wildlife tours, mainly for educational charity the ACE Foundation; I was just about to head off to Albania. John said’ Why didn’t you mention this earlier?

All the band are really interested in nature and science!’ Indeed the highly acclaimed Membranes comeback album is called Dark Matter/Dark Energy, and features interviews with CERN scientists along with tracks called The Universe Explodes into a Billion Photons of Pure White Light and catchy rock single Do the Supernova. More to these guys than meets the eye ..which is saying something, as they have a strikingly powerful stage show and look amazing. So, one thing led to another, and we agreed that when they next played near me, I would take them on some kind of nature excursion.

Turns out they were playing Norwich Sound and Vision festival in October, and I was around then. We made a plan to meet at a café in Thetford Forest, on the way to Norwich, and on the appointed day I set off early to figure out an interesting route. I had once years ago seen evidence of red deer rutting near here .. and October is the peak time. So I checked the site, with no real expectations of success...but on approaching I heard the eerie cow-like wail of a male red deer in full testosterone flow, the largest native British land mammal. I watched several stags and lots of hinds for some hours, including two subordinate males who attempted to mate with each other. Then it was time to get the band!

Everyone was as excited as I was, and asked lots of probing questions. The leather jackets, quiffs, DMs and brothel creepers looked slightly out of place, but only just; all dark colours, so good camouflage. There was a lovely mood, all laughing and joking at the weirdness of the occasion until hushed into silence as we approached the rutting grounds.

First we heard them, and had a whispered discussion about using the roaring on the next album. Then we saw the first distant hinds...then a proud male posing with head up. We watched and took photos through my telescope, slowly inching forward. To my surprise two stags actually came towards us! Craning their necks to make us out, as we must have looked like a strange multi-headed leather creature hunched together over the scope.

Everyone could have stayed there all day, but sadly soundchecks beckoned. I mentioned never having found a shed antler...and on return we found one, which the lads insisted I kept. Instant karma! Later at the Owl Sanctuary (great venue, though no sign of owls) the Membranes headlined a great gig, and I got even more rewards.

John asked the crowd if they had any questions for Viv Albertine, whom he was interviewing next day. A less than serious reply ‘What is the Latin name of the heron?’ Rob the drummer shouted ‘ Can we phone a friend? Where’s Kevin?’ and with some difficulty I dragged ‘Ardea cinerea’ out of my memory and shouted it back. A discussion on Latin names of birds ensued I said, not your average band.

At the end of the night I got a signed poster, with cartoon stags and guitarist Pete adding ‘Thanks Kevin, you’re a deer!’. It was agreed that all future band riders should include wildlife experiences. My next challenge is to find badgers for them and the Nightingales (how appropriate!) at their Brighton gig in Feb 2017.

Kevin Hand
Nov 2016

And what we saw through the ‘scope...

A cold damp Tuesday night in Nottingham is about to become warm, cozy and enthralling in the company of two very accomplished outfits.

Rock City is pretty much full (not sure why they did not open the balcony) tonight and the first band on are Submotion Orchestra, a Seven piece formed in Leeds in 2009.

With an expansive, ambient and dreamy sound, the venue is quickly enveloped in the band’s warm glow. New Album ‘Colour Theory’ provides the base for the 50 minute set which if there are new listeners present, they must be checking out the band further as we write.

The Cinematic Orchestra do not tour that much and recent live dates have been in London and major cities, so a regional tour is most welcome.

The Cinematic Orchestra formed in1999 by Jason Swinscoe are a band that to me that evoke memories of Jazz legends, Weather Report but, with added vocals from singers, Tawiah and Hedi Vogel that just melt your heart this takes their songs to a new level. New song ‘To Believe’ is a prime example. This is actually the first new material for a while and with the tour and the evident tightness of the band, this all bodes well for more activity soon.

A string intro started the show, as the band eased into ‘Burn Out’ and really warmed up with ‘Child Song’ and ‘J Bird’.

‘The Reveal’ is a stunning song, but by this time the people with 2 pint glasses are becoming decidedly chatty which, takes the edge off the mid section of the set until nature calls and they don’t return!

‘Flite’, ‘Breathe’ and ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ end the main set superbly and there is still a 3 song encore to come.

We can cope with whatever winter throws at us with warm musical nights like this.




Burn Out

Child Song

J Bird

The Reveal

To Believe

Eye for an I




Man with the Movie Camera


To Build a Home

Ode to the Big Sea

All That You Give

We've all been in a part-filled music venue which claimed to be “SOLD OUT” for the sake of good PR for the band, haven't we. Tonight as I walk up the stairs to the Main Hall at Rock City there are people standing in the doorway to the entrance it's rammed, there are 2,500 here tonight to see local heroes/ anti-heroes/ superheroes Sleaford Mods. Andrew Fearn (laptop, blue 'Still Hate Thatcher' shirt, and bottled beer), and Jason Williamson (machine-gun style vitriolic vocals, plain black shirt and bottled water) walk on stage to a heroes welcome.

Tonight's show is a mix of old faves and new stuff from the 'TCR' E.P. 'I Can Tell' and the title track (the cleaned up version of which has been getting air play on 6Music) get played early in the set. 'Face to Faces', 'Fizzy' and 'Giddy On The Ciggies' get the largely male and young moshpit going down the front.

Mid song something gets thrown towards Jason, at the end of the song he addresses the transgressor “I am not Tony Stark, I am made of flesh. If you throw things at me and I go down you have wasted ten pounds. Hit the b*****d” In spite of that incident the mood is celebratory, the band seem genuinely overjoyed with the audience's reaction “Just remember you didn't come to see us tonight, we came here to see you. We love you Nottingham” as they finish the main set.

The three track encore begins with the rattling intro to 'Jobseeker' over which Jason ad-libs a couple of lines from Bad Manners' 'Lip Up Fatty'.'Tied Up in Nottz' ignites the Catherine Wheel circle pit and rockets of beer fountains and keeps the bouncers busy attempting to repel the stage invaders one of whom gets through and takes an impressive dive back into the crowd at the climax of the song.

The lack of a traditional song structure, the minimal deep bass beats from Andrew's laptop and Jason's impressive machine-gun style vocal rattle sit uneasily with some, but as a band willing to shine a light at the absurdity and general dissatisfaction many feel in life they are a vital British band.

Alisdair Whyte


Its a testament to the progress the Picturedrome has made over these last few years that they now have the privilege of hosting the opening night of Anathema’s November mini tour, rather than the latest Oasis or Stone Roses tribute band. The tour itself takes in several smaller UK venues, a brief trip to the prog friendly venues of The Netherlands and France, before the prestigious support slot to Opeth at Wembley Arena in late November.

The band have been holed up in a studio for the last few months, working on studio album number 11, and by their own admission have been feeling lonely and yearning to play for audiences again.

The event was billed as an evening with Anathema, promising a 2 hour set, including previews of the new music worked out so far.

The lights dimmed, the heavy doom laden backing track was silenced, and the band took the stage where they launched into the first new track of the evening. No clues were given to the title of this track, but the word “tonight” was prominently used. The track seemed to follow on from 2014’s cooly received Distant Satellites, with a glitchy, electronic backing track over which the rest of the band played. After the majesty of albums We’re Here Before We Are Here and Weather Systems, here’s hoping they don’t go do a Radiohead - after all, this is a band used to making bold changes of musical direction.

Lead singer, and one of the 3 brothers in the band, Vinnie Cavanagh hoped, at the songs conclusion, that we weren’t too freaked out by opening the set with a new track. The mainly silent audience, stayed silent.

Thankfully, we were quickly on familiar territory, with the magnificent, 11 minute or so Untouchable Parts 1 & 2 before leading straight into Thin Air. These tracks also saw the first appearance of female vocalist Lee Douglas to the stage, and all was well with the world. Similar to Mimi Parker in Low, Douglas add a beautiful, sweet softening to the main vocals and harmonies and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing she was used more.

The rest of the first half of the set continued with mainly old stuff, much to the pleasure of the ever warming crowd. The exception was another new track (Springfield ?), sounding lovely and reassuring, before closing with the traditional Closer.

It was clear that the band were a little rusty, with Danny Cavanagh even forgetting to plug his guitar in at some point, and several issues with the sound mixing, but this eased as the evening progressed.

The second half opened with Distant Satellites, before 2 new tracks in a row. The first was introduced as “your new favourite Anathema song”. Again, both sounded familiar, yet a progression on recent albums and something to look forward to in the new year.

Fragile Dreams closed the evening, by which time the euphoria caused by the band meant we didn’t want it to end, and disappointingly there wasn’t a encore.

Always great to see this magnificent, if underrated band, even if it seemed a little like a warm up to a bigger event, which of course it was, but as a taster to album number 11, next year can’t come quickly enough.


Band Website